What’s in a name?

I was a chapter and a half into a WIP when I realised something wasn’t working. After redrafting and editing and still getting nowhere with what I knew could be a great story it dawned on me the problem wasn’t with the story but with the heroine. I just wasn’t feeling her (unlike the hero who was more than happy to have a go much earlier than I was expecting him to, though that’s another story…) and I realised it came down to one reason: her name.

I had inadvertently chosen the name of a real person I had once known and instead of picturing my heroine I had a subconscious mental image of someone who most definitely didn’t deserve to get her hands on my hero.  As soon as I went back to the drawing board and renamed the character the scenes began to come together.

Names are funny things. However much I plan, I can’t get down to the business of writing the story unless I’ve found the right name. I estimate I’ve spent as much time choosing names for my characters as I did for my children*, though for them I had the whole of history to go at rather that medieval England. I try to use authentic names for my characters.  I can happily spend hours poring over documents from the time for inspiration so you’ll never find a Lady Chardonnay or Sir Kevin but I’ve also developed a few rules too.

Rule 1. Heroines can have two syllable names but heroes should be called something short, or a name that can be shortened (nicknames and dropping titles is a way I like to show the growing intimacy between the characters).

My first hero, Hugh in Falling for Her Captor was named after Hugh Jackman – which probably indicates where my mind was while I was writing. I like single syllables that to me at least sound a bit tough and masculine to say out loud: Hugh, Will, Hal. Rhett… Han… Jon… Thor (?!?)…

Four books in I’ve already broken this rule with the hero of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge with a hero called Aelric who goes by the alias Caddoc but finding a one-syllable Anglo-Saxon name proved almost impossible (and be thankful he isn’t called Aethilberct).

I’ve slightly backed myself into a corner with my next book to be released because when I wrote The Blacksmith’s Wife I didn’t intend Roger to be anything more than the villain (perhaps having a name that became slang for penis is part of the reason he was so bitter).  Now he’s got his own book as readers were intrigued by him and is saddled with a less than heroic sounding name even though the Germanic origin means ‘’renown + spear’ which fits his ambition to be a great jouster well. Isn’t that a lucky coincidence!

Rule 2. After hours spent with my spellcheck trying to change my second hero Will Rudhale’s tenses, I added a new which is never use a name that is also a verb (‘Do you mean ‘will try’ not ‘Will tried’? No I ****ing don’t, nor did I the last 27 times!)

Rule 3. Avoid the Dickensian ‘Mr Nastyb*stard, official puppy kicker of London Town’ method of indicating character through names.  Having said that I’m having to seriously resist following the suggestion of Baron Longden Hardthrust of Broadshaft Hall.

Rule 4. The biggie. Avoid the names of friends and family. Especially men. Mainly because I have a low embarrassment threshold and don’t ever want to have the ‘so that’s me in the book is it?’ conversation (which amazingly I’ve had even when the names don’t match). Chances are if I know you then you are in there somewhere because all writers are magpies and collect mannerisms, features and conversations but whether you’re the love interest, villain or comic relief I absolutely refuse to say!

 

*One named for a series of inventors, the other after a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer if you’re interested.

 

Do you have a favourite character name, or one that turns you straight off the book? Do share in the comments.

Medieval Monday- Introducing Laurel O’Donnell

Christmas is over but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy a bit of Yule magic.  Here is the wonderful Laurel O’Donnell with Mistletoe Magic

A confident knight arrives home to find his childhood friend grown into much more than he remembered. The lady of the castle keeps a dangerous secret that threatens all she holds dear. Will Mistletoe Magic save them?

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Yuletide. It had always made Jaclyn Fainwick excited and happy with the potential of what the future held. This one day, amongst all the rest, was when every hope, every dream could come true. She loved this day above all the rest in the year.

She sat before the hearth in the Great Hall, waiting for the festivities to begin, swinging her feet back and forth. She had been waiting for most of the day. Her father would come, and her mother, and her brother. All the people she loved would be together on this day. No matter where they were or what they were doing, they would always gather together on the Yuletide.

She twisted and looked behind the large wooden chair she sat in. The shadows at the back of the Hall were getting long as the sun set, stretching dark fingers into the Great Hall. But no one was coming. She turned back and clutched her hands in her lap. If she were very good, her father would bring her something wonderful. A strand of her long dark hair had pulled free of the braid at her back and she swatted it back in place.

The flames danced in the hearth, warming her. She had been alive for ten Yuletides, this would make her eleventh, enough to know that the Yule log would soon be burned. It wouldn’t be long now.

Around her, the servants cleared the tables from the feast. A dog rushed beneath the table to gobble up a scrap of the duck that had fallen.

Suddenly, booted footsteps echoed down the hall.

Her stomach lurched with excitement and Jaclyn turned to see her friend, Alexander, run into the Great Hall, followed by her brother, Paul. She sat back in disappointment. Alexander reached her side first, skidding to a halt on the rushes.

“I told you she’d be in here,” Paul said, stopping at her other side. He was out of breath as if he had run a far distance. His brown hair was in a disarray on his head; his blue jupon was askew, his black boots dirty.

Alexander looked at her and grinned.

Jaclyn’s heart lurched at his twinkling blue eyes, as it always did. Even at thirteen summers, Alexander was the most handsome boy she had ever met. His blonde hair reached to his shoulders and always had just the right amount of wave to it. He was not dressed as nicely as Paul, but he carried himself with more confidence. He usually wore a leather vest and black leggings, the same he was wearing on this Yuletide.

He met her gaze. “Your father is coming,” he said with restrained exuberance.

She turned in her chair to face the door.

“I was going to tell her,” Paul complained.

It didn’t matter who told her. Outside the door in the hallway, Jaclyn heard heavy footsteps. It sounded like the entire village was with her father! She could barely sit still in her exhilaration. A moment skipped by and then her father appeared. He was the tallest man of all the men following behind him, his shoulders broad, his hair dark. He was surrounded by knights and villagers. They entered the hall behind him as he walked toward her.

She stood to greet him.

“My dove,” he whispered and greeted her with a hug.

She embraced him.

He pulled back to look at her. “Before we light the Yule log, I want to give you this. You have been a very good girl this year, and a wonderful daughter.” He held something out to her.

Jaclyn hadn’t noticed he was carrying anything. She looked down to see he was holding a branch with green leaves and white berries. She gasped, “It’s beautiful!” and took the branch from his hand.

“The berries reminded me of the winter snow,” her father said softly.

Jaclyn nodded. “But the green leaves belong in the summer!” She looked up at him. “The trees have long since lost their leaves. Where did you find it?”

“I had to travel very far to find it.” he told her, leaning in to add, “It’s magical.”

“Like Yuletide!” Jaclyn gasped.

Her father smiled and nodded. “That’s why I brought it to you now. Keep it safe, child.”

Jaclyn nodded and hurried through the villagers and gathered guests. She paused to glance back at her father. He was silhouetted before the warm hearth fire, his arms on his hips, watching her. She curtseyed slightly. “Thank you, Father.”

He dipped his head in a nod.

Jaclyn knew the perfect place to keep it safe. The perfect spot for it. She raced to her room and flung a cloak about her shoulders. She paused to stare at the branch. It was amazing. Summer and winter, all rolled up into one glorious plant. She gently touched one of the berries.

“Father’s going to light the Yule log.”

Buy Mistletoe Magic

Things that aren’t romantic.

My husband and I have an ongoing debate about whether certain things are romantic or not (buying flowers, meals out, taking your own wine glass to the kitchen at bedtime…)

One of our occasional disagreements is over the Roy Orbison song ‘Drove All Night’.

For anyone who doesn’t know the song it’s about a bloke who decides he misses his girlfriend/wife/partner so drives to her/their house through the night.  He arrives in the morning (no mention of pausing for a shower after a six r seven hour car journey)and wakes her up for sex.   He is proud of this fact.

I’m fairly sure that you can tell from my synopsis which side of the debate I come down on.

Stopping someone having a lie in because you were feeling horny is not something to be proud of.

‘I drove all night, crept in your room, woke you from your sleep, to make love to you.’

Umm… no.  That’s you feeling entitled to a reward for unasked for spontaneity.

Try driving all night, creeping in with a pot of tea (and a bacon sandwich if you’re really pressed for time), leaving it by the bed then GOING AWAY FOR HALF AN HOUR.

Then you might be in with a shot (bonus points if you make a start on tidying the kitchen while you’re waiting).

Anyway, here’s the video, which is pretty cool.

I’m unlikely to ever use it as a book inspiration because I promise that whatever my heroes do to show their devotion it will never involve interrupting sleep.

Tell me your least romantic romantic gestures?

On the subject of romance, next month is Valentine’s Day.  I’ll be running a special giveaway for a chance to win a copy of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge so watch this space.

Medieval Monday – Bambi Lynn

I love being able to share excerpts from such wonderful authors.  Today I’m sharing Bambi Lynn’s Marek.

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Boring accountant, Kitty Petty, struggles to get through each day one at a time since the brutal murder of her husband. She spends every free moment caring for her young daughter, until the night she wakes to find her bed on fire.

Kitty doesn’t know how she got to the year 1196, much less how to get back. But if she doesn’t, her daughter will be institutionalized. Having failed to save her child from the clutches of a madman. Kitty vows to protect her future. But going back to her time means risking her own life and separating her from the knight she has grown to love.

Marek Stone wants to protect his wife from the people of Stonebridge. Katherine has been declared a demon after her miraculous rise from the funeral pyre, and the villagers want justice.

Kitty doesn’t know how she got to the year 1196, much less how to get back. But she must if she has any hope of saving her daughter. However, the knight who loves her will do anything to make her stay.

 

Marek’s family sat with them, although Bryn sat at one of the trestle tables, a better vantage point for grabbing the backside of every passing serving girl. As she looked around the great hall, Kitty thought every villager in Stonebridge must be in attendance. Many had never been to a feast as grand as this.

There was no corn or sweet potatoes, but Vale and Bryn had managed to hunt down a flock of birds remarkably like turkeys. There was no end to the bread stuffing, gravy, even stewed cranberries. Kitty herself had been guiding the cooks for a week to prepare enough food for everyone. They had even baked over one hundred pumpkin pies for dessert.

“My lady,” Bryn called from the floor below. “Tell me again the name you have given this feast.”

“Thanksgiving,” Kitty shouted back to him. “While you’re eating, you have to go around the table and tell about something you’re thankful for.”

Marek reached over and squeezed her hand.

Thane, who sat next to Bria, leaned behind his niece to speak to her. “Sister,” he said with a lowered voice only she could hear. “I have been forced to contend with talk of you among many of the villagers. It is not wise for you to suddenly appear out of a fire. I can only do so much to protect you. I beg you not do it again.”

Kitty smiled at him. “I promise.” She reached beneath the table and pulled out one of the carpet bags she’d brought with her. “I have something for you.”

When she handed him the portable Play Station, he looked at her like she might indeed be from the devil. Kitty smiled. “It’s a game. Watch.” She pushed the little machine beneath the table and away from prying eyes.

Thane nearly dropped the PSP when it lit up. “Shh. You’ll have to keep it secret. This is an easy game called PacMan. You have to move him through the path and eat as many of these little dots as possible. But don’t get caught.”

Kitty left Thane to the wonder of electronic video games and moved to sit next to Remi. He looked at her skeptically, but over the last few days, his animosity towards her had dimmed some. She reached into her bag and pulled out a portable DVD player. She had already loaded the Robin Hood movie.

Remi barely breathed as the credits started. “Don’t watch it now. If you’re caught, we might all be burned at the stake. But pay particular attention to the parts about Prince John.”

She caught Bryn’s attention as he was in between wenches and motioned for him to join her. She pulled a handful of Legos from her bag and spread them out on the table, hoping no one nearby was paying them any attention. “Look…you can snap them together, pull them apart. I have a whole box of them for you in my room. They come in all sizes and colors and you can build anything out of them.”

Adin and Vale were enveloped in ladies, so Kitty decided their gifts could wait. Vale would not need his bullet-proof vest for several months yet. Adin would have years to perfect his technique with help from the pristine copy of The Karma Sutra she’d gotten him.

By midnight, Bria had crawled into Thane’s lap and fallen asleep. Kitty would have to give her the Barbie doll later. Vanesa, however, was having the time of her life. She leaned forward to peer around the massive form of her stepfather. “Mom!” When Kitty looked across at her, Vanesa held up her goblet of weak ale. “Huzzah!” They both laughed as Kitty toasted with her. “This is so much better than the Renaissance Festival.”

“What is this ‘renaissance’?” Marek asked.

Kitty smiled and shook her head. “Come carry Bria up to bed. I have a gift for you.”

Buy a copy of Marek here

A Wager for the Widow came out in French in December. I found a lovely review for it here.La rebelle de Tawstott d’Elisabeth Hobbes

⭐ La rebelle de Tawstott d’Elisabeth Hobbes Nombre de pages :  320 pages Éditeur :  Harlequin Date de sortie :  1 décembre 2016 Collection :  Les Historiques Langue :  Français ISBN-10 :  2280…

Source: La rebelle de Tawstott d’Elisabeth Hobbes

Medieval Monday -Ruth A. Casie

Happy New Year!  I’ve just about remembered what day it is (isn’t it hard when we’re going by titles not names for days) which is useful as today is the first Medieval Monday of 2017.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Ruth A. Casie’s The Druid Knight Tales.

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Maximilian, the druid Grand Master, was given a year to find his soul mate. On the final day, the sacred mistletoe has shriveled and died—proclaiming his failure. He must do what no other Grand Master has done before and journey to meet with the Ancestors formally relinquish his title.

Ellyn of Brodgar has the gift of healing. But each use of her magick, through a kiss, depletes her energy and brings her closer to death. Time is running out as she searches for a way to continue saving lives—especially her own.  

Max and Ellyn are tossed into the Otherworld together—a place filled with magick and wonder, it’s also fraught with danger, traps, and death. They have only until the third sunset to find the Ancestors, or be lost to the world forever. The domineering druid must work with the stubborn healer, not only for survival, but for the promise of the future—a future together.

Included an epilogue fifteen years later. See how the man destined for Max and Ellyn’s daughter takes the first steps in becoming a druid knight.

Arik, son of Fendrel and Dimia, prepares for training with his adopted brother, Bran, setting into motion a ripple effect that will carry love, betrayal, and death across the centuries.

***

She woke before sunrise refreshed by a good night’s sleep. After her morning routine she picked up her staff and joined the others at the standing stones. Today, the shortest day of the year, they would welcome the day and celebrate the sacred marriage between Father Sky and Mother Earth. She waited while Doward finished cleansing and purifying the area for the Grand Master.

Ellyn and the people from all the clans proceeded through the outer circle to the Cove and its three standing stones. Doward came up to her. “Another year. They seem to hurry by.”

A wave of unease washed over her. She hardly made out what Doward said. She was too busy trying to control her rising apprehension.

The clans formed a large circle around the stones and waited. The Grand Master walked down the wide avenue and took his place. He stood beside her. She had imagined his tall, commanding presence quite correctly.

Everyone in the large circle faced east and waited for the sun to peek over the horizon. Slowly sunlight crept up and bathed the central Cove stone with its first rays of light.

“Hail and welcome,” declared Max.

“Hail and welcome,” the clans around him responded.

In unison they faced the center of the large circle.

“Hail this new day and year. We remember those who have left us. And we welcome those who have joined us by marriage, birth, or simply by choice.” He nodded toward Ellyn. “Ellyn of Brodgar, we welcome you into Fendrel’s clan.”

“Thank you, Grand Master.” Ellyn’s voice carried loud and clear. She faced Fendrel. “Thank you for making a place for me at your hearth.”

The first part of the morning ritual completed, the circle broke. She followed Max and the others as they made their way to the great oak in the nearby grove.

“Are you familiar with this part of the ritual?” Doward asked.

“Yes. The Grand Master will enter the Otherworld and meet with the Ancestors.”

“There is more to the ritual,” Doward said. “To ensure a good year and banish evil, when the Grand Master returns with the message from the Ancestors, the women will cut down and collect springs of mistletoe from the sacred oak tree. The Grand Master will give the sprigs to the families in the clan for them to hang in their house.”

Everyone gathered around the ancient oak. Once again she and Doward stood in the great circle next to the Grand Master.

Max waited for quiet before he faced the east and raised his arms. “Hail, Guardians of the East. I summon the power of air.” His voice echoed through the grove.

“By the air in her breath, be with us now,” the congregation replied.

He turned to the south. “Hail, Guardians of the South. I summon the power of fire.”

“By the fire in her spirit, be with us now,” came the reply.

He faced the west. “Hail, Guardians of the West. I summon the power of water.”

“By the waters of her womb, be with us now.”

Turning north he said, “Hail, Guardians of the North. I summon the power of earth.”

“By the earth that is her body, be with us now.” Every eye turned to Max when he faced the ancient oak, mistletoe hanging in great bunches from its mighty branches.

“As above, so below.

As within, so without.

Four stars in this place be

To open the door to the Ancestors to me.”

The cold air chilled even more and the sky turned an array of colors. Every muscle in Ellyn’s body tensed. This was magick she was not supposed to see. She must be too close to the Grand Master. She struggled to move away but was fixed to the spot. Slowly the world began to spin. She took a few deep breaths to steady herself, planted her staff deep into the ground, and held on. She peered through a hazy filter and witnessed Doward’s nod. She studied his lips silently mouthing, Safe journey.

Buy The Druid Knight Tales here.

 

Find out more details about all the authors featured on Medieval Monday here

Reading Chicks Best Books of 2016

I’m honoured to be included in this list. Check out the other titles as well. I’ve added to my reading list!

Chicks,Rogues and Scandals

We are nearly into 2017, so for the first time I am holding my own Top Books of the Year, but with my own twist. I have five Categories Best Hero, Heroine, Plot, Series and Book of the Year. This isn’t an oficial chart it’s just my opinions on what I have read this year, I would love to know what your favorite books have been and equally what you are looking forward to reading in the new year, so let’s begin. . .

Best Hero :

Rhys Winterborne, Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas.

webpage_20161230_145350A ruthless tycoon. . .

Savage ambition has brought common-born Rhys Winterborne vast wealth and success. In business and beyond, Rhys gets exactly what he wants. And from the moment he meets the shy, aristocratic Lady Helen Ravenel, he is determined to possess her. If he must take her virtue to ensure she marries him, so…

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Medieval Monday- Cathy MacRae

It’s a busy time of year with all the celebrations going on.  If you’ve managed to slip away to get a spot of peace and quiet well done! Here’s a wonderful excerpt from Cathy MacRae’s book to read while you have a quick cuppa!

Determined to keep the Macrory clan’s holdings out of the clutches of the Lord of the Isles and marauding pirates, King Robert II sends his man, Lord Ranald Scott, to hold Scaurness Castle. There, Laird Macrory lays dying, awaiting word from his son who is missing on the battlefields of France. If the son is not found before the old laird dies, Ranald will take over as laird—and marry Laird Macrory’s headstrong daughter.

Lady Caitriona sees no reason she cannot rule the clan in her brother’s stead, and is bitterly disappointed with the king’s decision to send a man to oversee the castle and people. Not only is Ranald Scott only distantly related to the Macrory clan, but he was her childhood nemesis. She has little trust or like for him.

Her disappointment turns to panic when the king’s plan is completely revealed and she realizes she must wed Ranald. Pirates, treachery, and a four-year-old girl stand between her and Ranald’s chance at happiness. What will it take for them to learn to trust each other and find the love they both deserve?

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The Highlander’s Reluctant Bride (book 2 in The Highlander’s Bride series)

Excerpt:

At a nod from the priest, Riona stepped forward, and Eaden placed her hand in Ranald’s. She glanced at him from beneath lowered lashes, her heart racing wildly.

“Lady Caitriona, do ye come here of yer own free will and accord, without let or hindrance, free of all moral and legal encumbrance, to enter into this contract?”

Riona inhaled a deep breath. “Aye.”

The priest’s voice droned on, and she and Ranald murmured the correct responses, pledging their troth.

“Laird Scott, will ye have Gilda as yer daughter, to act as father and counsel, granting her all the attendant rights, privileges and responsibilities?”

Riona’s gaze flew to Ranald. This was not part of any wedding ceremony she’d ever attended. What was Ranald promising?

He squeezed her hand reassuringly and motioned for Gilda to approach. Placing his palm on the child’s shining head, he faced Riona, his gaze compelling her to listen to his words.

“Aye. I will offer all this in love and custom, giving her place in law alongside such other children as may arise from this union.”

Riona barely heard the challenge from the priest for any to speak who had just cause to oppose the marriage. Nor could she stop the tears spilling down her cheeks as she strove to breathe past the lump in her throat. Before their wedding guests and God, Ranald had pledged to give her daughter all the benefits of his own children, and to love and provide for her always.

Ranald leaned close, brushing the back of a hand over her damp cheek. “Dearling, will ye say yer vows?”

Abruptly Riona realized the priest was staring expectantly at her and she gathered her scattered thoughts. She handed her bouquet of heather to Gilda and faced Ranald, taking both of his hands in hers.

“Ye are blood of my blood, and bone of my bone.” She lifted her gaze and found dark blue eyes burning into hers. “I give ye my body, that we two might be one. I give ye my spirit, ‘til our life shall be done.”

* * *

Ranald knew he had surprised Riona. By taking Gilda as his daughter, he pledged to his new wife the lass would never want for a home or honor. He meant also to prove they both would never lack for love. The trusting, earnest look in her eyes as she gave him her vows humbled him, and he answered her with a promise of his own.

“I pledge my love to ye, and everything I possess. I promise ye the first bite of my meat and the first sip from my cup. I pledge yer name will always be the name I cry aloud in the dead of night. I promise to honor ye above all others. The love we forge will be never-ending and we will remain, forevermore, equals in our marriage. This is my wedding vow to ye.”

The priest nodded and continued the ceremony as Ranald faced Riona, Gilda tucked between them. The lass rested against her mother’s gown, swinging her basket from one hand, back and forth, watching as petals drifted to the floor.

“Ye may kiss yer bride.”

“‘Tis the best part,” he replied softly, drawing an answering smile from her that lit her eyes. He lowered his head and touched his lips to hers. Riona leaned into his kiss, and his heart skipped to know she willingly sought him before the enormous crowd around them.

A subtle cough from the priest ended their pledge, and they parted, only to turn, cheek-to-cheek, to face the cheers of their guests.

Ranald straightened, pulling Riona against his side, a hand on Gilda’s shoulder. “‘Tis my privilege and honor to introduce ye to my wife and daughter. Together we invite ye to have a drink,” Ranald stared pointedly at a guest near the forefront of the crowd who already held a chalice in his hand, “as the tables are set for the banquet.”

Another cheer went up and people surged forward, congratulating them with hugs or kisses for Riona and a clout to the shoulder for Ranald.

The banquet was quickly readied and everyone found a seat. At Ranald’s left Eaden stood, raising his goblet in a bid for silence. Gradually the jovial noise subsided.

“I would be the first to make a toast. My brother has always been a lucky man, but he has outdone himself this time.”

He faced Ranald and Riona. “A thousand welcomes to ye with yer marriage. May ye be healthy all yer days. May ye be blessed with long life and peace, and may ye grow old with goodness and with riches.”

Slainte!” The cheer rose from every throat as Ranald lifted Riona’s hand and pressed a kiss to her fingers.

 

 

Buy link: https://www.amzn.com/dp/B00J1PNPPC

Medieval Monday – Jenna Jackson

I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Jenna Jackson’s Seduction at the Christmas Court.  Isn’t this a gorgeous cover!

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Christmas tidings of comfort, joy, and temptation

Alyse and Geoffrey, Lord and Lady Longford, have journeyed to the glittering Christmas Court of King Edward III in the year 1349 to wait upon the king and take part in some Yuletide merriment. However, when Geoffrey is suddenly called into the king’s service again, Alyse must remain at court, attending the queen and persuading her rebellious sister to accept an unwanted betrothal. When rumors of Geoffrey’s death arise, Alyse fends off an old suitor who wants to renew their friendship. But how long will he take “No” for an answer?

No sooner had they taken their seats than the mummers appeared, bringing a great crash of applause from the courtiers and a low hum of murmuring. The King pounded the broad arm of his ornate, high-backed chair. Queen Phillipa sat smiling, still clutching the small silk bag Alyse had given her.

The guisers were indeed disguised in peculiar clothing. One wore the headdress of a Turk and green and yellow striped pants; his shoes were scarlet and turned up in a curving point with bells sewed onto the tips, so he jingled each time he took a step.

Alyse smiled and clapped until her hands ached, but finally settled herself on the bench. The mummers’ play had ever been her favorite part of the Christmas festivities at home at Beaulieu, the fanciful costumes the best part of the performance.

Several other characters now entered the Great Hall, one a knight in white with a huge wooden sword. That would be St. George. Four others, dressed in even more outlandish garb, would be the foolish knights and the Doctor followed them all, in oversized black robes, his long sleeves dragging the ground.

The court chattered excitedly as the mummers spread out all over the hall, talking and laughing with the courtiers.

With a sigh, Geoffrey smiled and grasped her chin, raising it so he could steal a kiss. His warm lips brushed hers, stirring her inner warmth as his touch always did.

“This entertainment will be tedious. I would much rather retire for a good night’s bedding right now,” he whispered, the puff of his breath tickling her ear and sending prickles of excitement down her neck.

She laced their fingers together. “’Twill be finished ‘ere long, my love. Then you can wield your weapon with a vigor yon knights cannot.”

He laughed and drank deeply. “Aye, sweet Alyse. My skill with both weapons outshines any other knight.”

“As you will not want me to be judge of that, I think, I will demur to your claim, although I will test your skills again with the one blade ‘ere the night is done.”

At Geoffrey’s bark of laughter—so loud it turned heads on the dais their way—Alyse settled back to watch the mummers, her cheeks burning, but a pleasant anticipation building within as well.

The mummer playing St. George took the center spot in the Great Hall and began a sing-song rhyme that soon had the court laughing at its nonsense. A stream of knights—played in turn by the other mummers—approached, made their rhyming challenge, and were quickly slain by St. George, whose wielding of his sword became swifter and swifter. He slayed the knights in such short order that by the time he faced the final knight, he did no more than look at the Turkish knight than the man fell down, his toes jingling softly as he landed on the soft rushes covering the floor.

A burst of laughter and applause followed that performance as the quack Doctor shuffled forward, his “magic potion” in a large bottle, gripped in his hand.

Thoroughly engrossed, Alyse laughed and clapped her hands. She held her breath and leaned forward as the Doctor poured the potion down the throats of the slain knights, spoke his own rhyme over them, and one by one, they began to twitch and dance, the rush-strewn floor seeming to come alive as they did. The room resounded with merriment as all seven knights revived.

Loud applause burst out from the courtiers, many of whom threw gold and silver coins onto the floor. Geoffrey tossed a gold florin to the Turkish knight. “For my lady’s pleasure,” he called.

The man nimbly caught the coin and made a deep bow. “Thank you, my lord.”

With a lecherous grin, Geoffrey grasped Alyse’s arm and urged her to rise. “And now allow me to attend to my lady’s pleasure as well.”

Buy it here

Medieval Monday -Barbara Bettis

Today’s excerpt comes from The Lady of the Forest by Barbara Bettis

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When her elderly husband dies, Lady Katherine fakes her own death and disappears into the forest with others escaping the brutish new lord. Determined to protect her people, she knocks the wrong man senseless. But Lord Henry isn’t an enemy, he’s the brother of her childhood friend. Although his tender confidence tempts her, she’s bound by duty.

Henry of Chauvere has found the one lady he wants for his own, never mind she’s tied him hand and foot. When he learns the king has ordered her to wed Stonehill’s ruthless new master, he insists Kate seek haven with his sister. But she won’t desert her friends. Henry vows to solve her problem, provided he catches a traitor before the threat from Kate’s past catches her.

When a daring rescue compels Henry and Kate to join forces, their attraction grows into love. If only duty didn’t drive them apart.

 

In this excerpt, Henry has interrupted the wedding celebration at Stonehill Castle to challenge Mortimer’s right to marry Kate.

[Henry and his two friends] stalked into the hall where the lord held forth at the high table before the household left for the chapel. Kate sat at his right, the priest at his left.

“Sir Mortimer.” Henry’s voice boomed above the din. “Stand and answer my challenge.”

Mortimer lifted his head. “Lord Henry. Sit, break your fast before I wed my lady.” His oily tone did not match his hard set of jaw and narrowed eyes.

Henry ignored the words and continued across the floor. Mortimer rose but before he could speak, Henry leaped onto the dais.

“You have no right to demand Lady Katherine in marriage.” It took all Henry’s determination not to glance at Kate.

“I have an order from the king, granting me this holding and the lady as my bride.

“I say the order does not exist.” A murmur rose from the people seated at the lower tables. Calling the lord a liar meant a fight. But no sounds arose of benches scraping back. Perhaps the soldiers awaited a signal. Henry stepped closer. “Produce this writ. Let me examine the seal.”

Dull red moved up Mortimer’s neck; his nostrils flared.

Henry sucked in a breath of satisfaction. He had him now. “You cannot. The people of Stonehill have been mistreated and their lady driven into hiding in fear for her life. You’ve lied and cheated, and you’ve taken part in a treasonous attempt to overthrow one of the king’s barons.”

He hadn’t known what to expect from Mortimer, but it wasn’t the self-satisfied upturn of the man’s mouth. Dread scraped a cold trail along Henry’s spine.

“You may be another baron and a pet of the king,” Mortimer said, “but that don’t make you always right, and that don’t keep you from facing a fight when you accuse an honest man of wrongdoing.”

He motioned to the priest, who stood and withdrew a section of parchment from a leather satchel beside him on the bench. It contained no seals.

Henry clenched his teeth. Why in the devil’s own hell hadn’t he considered the priest as the knight’s accomplice?

The churchman opened the document and at a nod from Mortimer, read. “Sir Mortimer of Corbeau, in gratitude for service, is granted the holding of Stonehill in Nottinghamshire…”

A loud buzzing in Henry’s ears blotted the words that followed. Satan’s backside! The writ existed. The parchment was stained and tattered, not the official document often used to dispense favors, but he’d seen Richard direct a clerk to scratch out such awards after a battle. They were rough and hurried, yet they carried the weight of the king’s power

And they always carried his seal.

Where was the seal for this order?

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